3.6 Ambulance services -
Mr FINCH - On page 160 of the budget papers there is a 66 per cent increase in travel and transport. What I would like to know is why and what steps are being taken, if any, to contain that because there are no notes anywhere to say what that is all about and I do not know if it is additional ambulances or what that travel and transport reference is to.
Mr AIRD - I will get a breakdown in terms of the level of expenditure but basically it is for providing assistance to a patient to travel out of their region for a service that they would otherwise be provided with in that region. It can be intrastate or interstate. It can relate to the service to provide assistance for accommodation and so on - the purchase of airline tickets and those types of things - depending on the level of assistance that was required to provide the level of medical attention that the patient needed that could not be provided within the region where they normally would have expected to get treatment.
Mr FINCH - Yes, but there was a 66.7 per cent increase and I am just wondering if that is going to increase next year or -
Mr AIRD - When I get a breakdown -
Mr FINCH - You will provide that?
Mr AIRD - Yes, I will get a breakdown and provide an explanation as to why this has occurred in this way. That is the best answer I can give you.
Mrs Jamieson - I have a similar question along the same lines.
Mr AIRD - I will provide the answer to it.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Can we all get a copy of that answer?
Mr AIRD - Yes.
Mr FINCH - I have two questions on the subject of the telephone service. I was just wondering if there had been any reports of the failure of the 000 telephone service during the past year but also just to extrapolate the question, I want to know about the status of the integrated services in emergency services and whether each section can communicate with the other - the police with the fire brigade, the SES and so on.
Mr AIRD - I am informed there was only one complaint in terms of 000, and that on further investigation the error had not occurred at the receiving end, from the information provided. But that is the only evidence. In terms of communication between agencies - between the actual communication rooms they can talk to one another, but there is still difficulty across the agencies, and the Government is endeavouring to rectify that situation.
Mr FINCH - There have been several alleged misappropriations of funds from the service reported during the past year. Firstly, are these funds recoverable or lost? Secondly, what steps have been implemented to prevent similar acts in the future?
Mr AIRD - Mr Chairman, as you would be aware, the matter is before the court. I am not going to comment in any way about these matters.
Mr Harriss - That is the legal side of it. The simple question of the fund recovery is not the sub judice issue.
Mr AIRD - I always err on the side of caution in these matters. If there is some information that we can provide at a later date, after I have taken further advice, then I will endeavour to get that information. Sometimes I am a very conservative person, and this is one occasion where I think it is appropriate.
Mr Dean - Very rarely.
Mr AIRD - I do not want to be known as a conservative anyhow.
Mr Finch - Thanks, I appreciate that advice.
Mr HARRISS - On a point of personal explanation rather than a matter of a question, the process seems to be unfolding here that a lot of questions are being asked and the Leader is giving undertakings to provide answers. Can we be assured that the answers to the questions which are being sought will in fact be provided on a formal basis to the relevant committee? I appreciate the position the honourable Leader finds himself in but it seems to me that if we do not go down that path we have lost the legitimate opportunity of the Estimates process because of the time run-outs in the committee process, and that process ought to be followed so that we have a formal report-back system. Otherwise, honourable members are going to be required to put questions on the Notice Paper, and the process just runs on and on and on.
I would like to seek some sort of guidance from you, Mr Chairman, as to that will be the process, and indeed an indication from the Leader that that will occur.
Mr CHAIRMAN - As far as the Standing Orders are concerned, the committees have reported, and therefore the committees no longer exist. I would imagine what could occur is the answers could be tabled, and once they are tabled in this House, not only the whole of the House but especially the committees that were dealing with them would get a copy of those answers.
Mr AIRD - Yes. If I might assist through this personal explanation, it is not in the Government's interest to withhold information from members where we have additional information. What occurred last time is that the information was circulated. I will have discussions with the President and the Clerk to find out the best method of relaying that information. I would like the members to have as much information as possible because then we can have properly informed debate. So I am not going to withhold information. There is no point in writing to one member about a particular interest when I know that if that member so wishes to copy it he can and then there may be, 'Oh, how come you got this information?' My view is that all members will get copies of the additional information that we are given.
Mr HARRISS - I am concerned with the broader aspect. The honourable member for Mersey has asked a range of questions and you have said that you would get the information for her, but that requires your good officers to monitor all that in some detail. It would be all too easy for you to move on. You have done it to me in the past.
Mr AIRD - No. No, I have not. I cannot recall, can you?
Mr Harriss - Chapter and verse?
Mr AIRD - Yes. I cannot remember doing it and if I did it was inadvertently, it certainly would not be deliberate. As far as I am concerned, when I have given an undertaking to provide an answer to one member I am happy to circulate that answer to everyone.
Mr DEAN - I want to ask a question in relation to charging in the ambulance services. I think most would be aware that a claim of undercharging has been made in relation to ambulance services. It was stated that the operators of the V8 Supercars, and I cite a couple of cases here, were charged $6 300 for ambulance costs yet in excess of $8 300 was paid out in direct and indirect wages alone before actual costs were included.
A similar scenario, as I understand, was cited during the recent Falls concert where revenue was exceeded by wages. A further issue was made that the subsidised costs of the air ambulance were being passed on to non-government users such as DVA and insurance cases. Could the Leader provide an explanation or a statement in relation to that question?
Mr AIRD - Mr Chairman, I have been informed that the costs recovery was done in accordance with the fee regulations and that there has been no formal proposition as the honourable member asserted. I do not know where he got that information from but I am informed that the costs recovery was done in accordance with the fee regulations.
Mr Harriss - What was the cost recovery then for the V8 Supercars, for example? What was paid for?
Mr AIRD - I have not got any details here now. But we can get it.